Video Game: Tales from the Borderlands

Welcome (back) to Pandora (again).

Tales from the Borderlands is an episodic Adventure Game by Telltale Games with collaboration from Gearbox Software set in the Borderlands universe, released from 2014-2015.

One is a Hyperion company man looking to claw his way up the corporate ladder. The other is a smooth-talking Pandoran con-artist looking for her next big score. Both hate each other, both are untrustworthy and both are trying to sell their side of the story. Set after the events of Borderlands 2, Tales from the Borderlands is about how a ten-million-dollar deal over a Vault Key sets two bickering protagonists on a journey towards wealth, power and... not dying, hopefully.

The official gameplay trailer can be seen here, along with the teaser trailer.

Episode 1 was released on November 25, 2014. Episode 2 was released on March 17, 2015.

Tales from the Borderlands contains examples of:

  • Actionized Sequel: Inverted. There is shooting and action but nowhere near as much as in the main games.
  • Action Survivor: In contrast to the usual protagonists of Borderlands games, Rhys and Fiona are explicitly noted to lack the combat skills of Vault Hunters and rely more on their wits.
  • Adaptational Badass: Loaders are much tougher to deal with than bandits in the Borderlands games, but Loader Bot is able to take on a small army of bandits before eventually succumbing, and that's with it stupidly standing there taking lots of hits while it waits for orders.
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: The Purple Skag.
  • Affably Evil: More than a few of the bandits. The mechanic who finds Fiona and Vaughn apologizes for not liking Vaughn's face, admonishes them for being rude to someone they just met (nevermind the fact that he's armed), and then sells them psycho masks for the race.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The loaders have been getting smarter ever since Jack's death. Unfortunately, this basically means they're just smart enough to be confused.
  • And Show It to You: If Rhys opts to "Break his heart" when August starts to walk away from the deal, he walks towards him and proceeds to punch through his chest, ripping out his heart...In his version of the story, anyway.
  • Artificial Limbs: Rhys has a mechanical right arm, apparently of Hyperion make as it has their yellow paint job and flanges on it. For some reason Rhys likes throwing punches with his weak flesh arm instead.
  • A-Team Firing/Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The cast all demonstrate atrocious aim at one point or another. Nicely averted if you have Fiona fire her Derringer either at August or at Felix just before he opens the case. In the former case, she makes a flying leap, twists in mid-air, and manages to shoot August in the hand, causing him to drop his revolver. In the case of Felix, she hits him while falling away in the moving caravan, inflicting a probably-lethal-on-its-own wound in advance of the bomb blast.
  • Attack Drone: The Hyperion Loader bot that Rhys and Vaughn bring with them to Pandora, explicitly for protection.
  • Bad Boss: As Senior-Vice President of Securities Advertisement, Vasquez "promotes" Rhys to Assistant-Vice Janitor and socks him in the face just to add injury to insult (though Rhys can avoid the punch in the face if you agree to go clean up trash because Rhys has "done worse" in his career).
  • Beehive Barrier: The giant chamber that houses the Gortys project uses one of these, which lights up red when the alarm is tripped and the security drones are released.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Zer0 shows up multiple times to either dramatically save the characters or to interrupt tense situations.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Zer0 is Impaled with Extreme Prejudice without any visible blood. Of course, it's quickly revealed that it's just his Decepti0n decoy.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Story-driven game or no, this is still Borderlands. Expect pinwheeling limbs and explosions of gore as comedy. Or, for a more specific example, former pinnacle of corporate cleanliness Rhys killing an alpha skag and winding up coated head to foot in its entrails.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: At the start of Episode 2, Fiona is forced to use the body of an Atlas general in order to bypass a retinal scanner. When they can't get him out due to his feet being stuck in his case, she's forced to scoop out his eyeball with a spork, with her accidentally crushing the first one. Later on, they learn that the guy was actually in suspended animation...
  • Brain Uploading: Nakayama created a Jack A.I. to ensure that Handsome Jack would be immortal. A sidequest in The Pre-Sequel patched into the game after the release of the first episode details this process, or at least the early stages of it.
  • Brains and Brawn: August and Vasquez. The roles are inverted, however - August, the ruthless thug, is much smarter and less bloodthirsty than Vasquez, the corporate climber.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: The briefcase filled with ten million dollars in cash that Vaughn gets for Rhys to trade with August for the Vault Key. After the Vault Key is revealed as a fake, it gets taken by Bossanova and becomes the MacGuffin of the first episode. It also has a bomb that will explode without Vaughn's biometrics and potentially ends up blown up, taking Felix with it.
  • Call Back: In Episode 1, a billboard for the "Engorge!" male enhancement drug is shown in Hollow Point. In the first Borderlands, Athena encrypted her messages to the Vault Hunters by hiding them in radio commercials for the product. Also, possibly by coincidence, in Episode 2, Athena herself shows up in Hollow Point.
    • In Atlas Mugged, Rhys starts formulating a plan, only to realise everyone has set off ahead of him. Lampshaded when he asks them to stop doing that.
    • Rhys can say something in threatening manner, which will make Vasquez punch him in the face in both episodes. The second time the game lampshade this with the message "Why is it always the face?".
  • Chariot Race: The first episode's climax takes place in one with pairs of motorcycles pulling trucks.
  • City Slicker: When entering Prosperity Junction for the first time, Rhys may be of the Tinhorn variety depending on the player's dialogue choices, while Vaughn is more of a Tenderfoot.
  • Cool Car: Rhys and Vaughn steal Vasquez's car, and it is indeed a nice one.
  • Combination Attack: Rhys has to jailbreak his loader bot into using both its weapons at once when they are surrounded by bandits.
    • Shield + Grenades: Sticks several of its electricity-spewing sticky grenades to its shield, then smashes it into the ground to create a cone of electricity.
    • Shield + Rocket Launcher: Shoots all its remaining rockets straight up, then uses its shield as an umbrella to keep Rhys and Vaughn safe as everything else explodes.
    • Machine gun + Grenades: Sticks its grenades into its cannon, creating a grenade launcher.
    • Machine gun + Rocket Launcher: Rotates in place to do a Death Blossom attack. The robot calls this the "Disproportionate Retribution" mode.
  • The Con: The plot of episode one.
  • Continuity Nod: Each episode so far is filled with references and nods to other Borderlands games.
  • Covered in Gunge: Rhys ends up this way briefly after slicing open an Alpha Skag with Zer0's sword.
  • Cutting Off The Branches: Considering that Tector and Jimbo Hodunk are alive, the Vault Hunters evidently killed the Zafords at the end of the Clan Wars questline of BL2. Which makes sense, considering how popular the Maggie was in BL2 and how many people sided with the Hodunks to get it.
  • Dead Guy on Display: There's a dead psycho hung on the Prosperity Junction billboard.
    • The World of Mystery has the corpses of Bewm, Shade, Professor Nakayama and Commandant Steele stuffed and mounted as displays. Shade, however, turns out to be faking it.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Played with humorously. If you die as Rhys, the Stranger will remark "And then you died?" as Rhys tries to explain "Okay, maybe that's not how it went..." and the game goes back to the point in which you last died.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: A strange example, when a Psycho is threatening Vaughn for the theft of his 'doom buggy', Fiona has the opportunity to headbutt him, which almost immediately results in the Psycho joining their race team.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: If you press a button to skip the credits that roll after the end of an episode, a message in the corner of the screen will say "Telltale Games will remember that".
  • Dig Your Own Grave: Vasquez forces Rhys and Vaughn to do this in Episode 2, though it doesn't last long before they escape.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: Rhys' old boss, Henderson, after Vasquez took care of him.
  • Dynamic Entry: Rhys and Vaughn and their car get shot onto the surface of Pandora and hit the ground rolling.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Of a sort, Fiona's present-day outfit can be seen unfinished in the caravan.
  • Electronic Eyes: Rhys has one that lets him scan various objects and people.
  • Enhance Button: Parodied in the beginning of Atlas Mugged, in which Sasha's first instinct on seeing the holographic map is to yell "Enhance!" as much as she can, something that Fiona can play along as well. Eventually Vaughn tells them to cut it out and how computers don't work like that.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: We see what life is like for people who aren't Vault Hunters who wander into Pandora: a ridiculous nightmare of death where everyone in a whole town can go rabid and shooty at a moment's notice. ...Well, okay, life is like that for Vault Hunters too, but at least the Vault Hunters are armed.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Rhys' outfit in the modern day segment is black and golden, similar to Vasquez', compared to the bright blue and green he wears normally. Also, his ECHO-Eye is gold instead of blue, and his cybernetic arm is silver instead of yellow and black. Similarly, Fiona now wears a black version of her outfit with red highlights.
  • Evil Power Vacuum: After the death of Handsome Jack, Hyperion is currently going through this, with Rhys as one of the upstarts looking to be the next Jack.
  • Eye Scream: An early QTE sequence in Atlas Mugged has Fiona digging out the eyeball of a general in order to access a retinal scanner. Not only does she get startled by Rhys screaming, causing her to slip and cut one eye in half, but by the time she succeeds and accesses the retinal scanner, it turns out the general was alive all along, in suspended animation. And he was possibly a last hope for the universe.
  • Flat "What.": Loader Bot's reaction to Vasquez pulling out a universal remote.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Rhys and Fiona are at least guaranteed to survive the events of the game though they evidently parted on poor terms.
  • Framing Device: The story is told in flashback, with Rhys and Fiona being interrogated by a masked bandit. If the characters end up dying, the bandit points out that obviously didn't happen and tells you to stop screwing around.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Rhys is hacking the Atlas system to access the elevator, an image of a Crimson Lance Assassin can be seen on one of the screens.
  • First Episode Spoiler: Holo!Jack doesn't show up until the very end of Episode 1. His appearance can be surprising to those not expecting it, but since he's a main cast member it's near impossible to talk about later episodes without mentioning him. After "Atlas Mugged" was released, he was even added to the Steam advertising screenshots.
  • Five-Man Band: The characters end up settling into this by Episode 2.
    • The Hero/The Lancer: Both Rhys and Fiona can fit into either roles depending on the situation.
    • The Big Guy: Loader Bot, as the most combat-capable individual of the group.
    • The Smart Guy: Vaughn, whose primary talent lies in his accounting skills.
    • The Chick: Sasha, who serves as the relative emotional center of the group.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Granted the "gameplay" here is a different game entirely, but in Episode 2, two thugs carry Torgue pistols that appear to shoot regular bullets instead of explosive gyrogets. This is extremely evident if you get a Game Over in this scene: Fiona is killed with a Pretty Little Headshot from a Double Penetrating Unkempt Harold at point blank range. If that gun worked the way it was supposed to, she'd be missing the entire top half of her body at least.
  • Genre Shift: Rather than being a loot-focused shooter, the game is instead a point and click adventure game.
  • Greed: A main theme according to the developers.
  • Helpful Hallucination: The holographic manifestation of Handsome Jack that only Rhys can see ends up helping Rhys throughout Atlas Mugged by upgrading his ECHO eye.
  • Hero of Another Story: Zer0, while given for being a Previous Player-Character Cameo, also plays this regularly because it is clear he has his own mission he is on that only crosses paths with the point of view characters rather than involving them directly. That is, until you find the Gortys core he was looking for.
    • Zero even gets his Villain Of Another Story, Bossanova, who never directly threatens (or is aware of) Rhys or Fiona at all but is presented as a formidable foe who can blast things to pieces with his chest-mounted soundblaster.
  • Hero-Worshipper: Rhys is stated to be a Jack-lover who want to be just like him both figuratively and literally, to the point that he even looks and acts like him. He even sounds kind of like him, even though he does have a different voice actor.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: As Fiona, it's possible to shoot Felix with the derringer he gave you. It might have even been a fatal wound, were it not for the fact that he blew himself up seconds later.
  • How We Got Here: The framing device of the game revolves around Rhys and Fiona being tied up by a masked individual whose curious to know their story leading up to their capture. Each tell their side of the stories...with a few liberties.
  • I Am What I Am: When Sasha tries to make Rhys feel guilty about working for Hyperion, Rhys can respond that the only thing he has ever wanted to do since he was very young was run a company, and even though Hyperion does some horrible things, they are the biggest and most powerful company around, so he's quite happy working there.
  • Infinity–1 Sword: Rhys starts out with a stun baton which is so overpowered all he has to do is tap it against someone to send them flying. The only bandit who gives him any real trouble once he activates it is a heavily-amored Nomad.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted for Rhys, who hurts his hand when trying to punch a bandit in the face, which makes you wonder why he didn't just use his cybernetic arm.
  • Jerkass: Standard M.O. for Hyperion suits. With the right dialog choices, you can make Rhys into a proper Jack wannabe.
  • Jump Scare: Shade introduces himself this way twice. He notices that the people he chances upon react to him the way you'd expect.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Felix's death by suitcase bomb, if you don't warn him. Bonus points if you decided to shoot him first with the Derringer he gave you.
    • A minor one, the bandit in the intro scene gets hit by Rhys' car right after he kills someone.
  • Kick the Dog: You have several options to do this, mostly as Rhys. Deciding to order the loader to self-destruct rather than escape is probably the first notable one.
    • As Fiona, there's telling Shade he cannot accompany you, followed by the message: Shade is used to rejection.
  • Klingon Promotion: Vasquez got his position by having his predecessor spaced. Turns out Jack's way of getting Tassiter's job either wasn't an isolated case or inspired those who came after him.
  • Lame Comeback:
    • Rhys has one, when Fiona interrupts his version of events as the Stranger drags him through the desert.
    Fiona: Nice haircut, you lying Hyperion jackass!
    Rhys: It is a nice haircut!
    • Rhys gets another in the climax of "Zer0 Sum" when Vasquez tries to get him to sell out Vaughn, provided you didn't just hang up mid-sentence.
    Vasquez: scratch my nuts, I scratch yours.
    Rhys: Scratch your own nuts!
    Sasha: Really?
  • Lighter and Softer: While the Borderlands franchise is already pretty light-hearted, this game has significantly fewer bodies dropping by virtue of not being a shooter (compared to the previous games, where thousands or even millions of bandits and private military soldiers are dead by the end of the game). Also, compared to The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, this is them going back to their more comedic roots.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Episode 2 begins with the group trying to get away from from Moonshots and Rakks. One moonshot hits the caravan and sends Rhys and Vaughn flying out the destroyed back end of it. Fiona tries to grab Rhys by the foot, and if the player succeeds at the quick time event, his shoe slips off in the process. Rhys goes around without his left shoe for the rest of the episode, though he can ask for it back if he talks to the girls at Old Haven.
  • Meaningful Name: Bossa nova is a genre of music. Bossanova is a bandit boss who is also a musician. Whether or not he has a Nova shield equipped is unknown.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Vasquez's reaction to Loader Bot flying off with Rhys and Vaughn, when he was in the middle of trying to run them over.
  • Musical Assassin: Bandit leader Bossanova uses his amplified dubstep music as a weapon.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • There are several references to previous Borderlands games. Like one of Captain Scarlett's pirates showing up at August's bar or Fiona being able to buy a Steve themed mask.
    • A skag gets run over by a car. Vaughn, a first in the series, actually freaks over having possibly killed it.
  • Neck Snap: Sasha does one to a bandit. Rhys attempts to do the same to another bandit and fails hilariously.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: General Pollux requests that someone unfreeze him from suspended animation, by way of a recorded message. Too bad Fiona only finds this out after having taken a spork to both of his eyes.
  • Nobody Here But Us Stuffed And Displayed Corpses: Including this one of Shade, who is definitely not the least bit insane.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Fiona's one-bullet gun is hidden in her right sleeve.
  • Not So Different: Sasha and Rhys talk for a bit where she asks some Armor Piercing Questions about what it's like to work for a horrible corporation. A few conversation options reveal that the environment may be less dusty but it's now just as much of a shark tank up on Helios as it is down on Pandora.
  • Oh, Crap: Con woman Fiona very subtly panics when August shoots a man dead in front of her for "dishonesty". Comes complete with a twist on Telltale's familiar dialog pop-up.
    You should remember that.
  • Old Save Bonus: There are various items that can be collected that can carry over into other Borderlands games.
  • Overly Long Gag: Bossanova's reaction to Zer0 stabbing the speaker on his armor.
    Bossanova: I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate you!!
  • Percussive Maintenance:
    • Jack's Virtual Ghost pops in and out of existence whenever Rhys gets bonked on the head.
    • Rhys can try this on the computer in the bandit base if you choose to "Whack It" instead of "Hack It".
  • Pet the Dog: Rhys and Fiona have quite a few options to show they care, especially to Vaughn, Loader Bot and Sasha. Also, Fiona telling Scooter that he's awesome or letting Shade accompany her. Rhys even has the opportunity with Vasquez, by not using the 'Wallethead' joke against him.
  • Pinky Swear: Sasha and Rhys do one in one of the choices.
  • Power Trio:
    • Rhys, Vaughn, and Yvette, friends and mutual Hyperion wageslaves who work together to try and advance each other's careers.
    • Fiona, Sasha, and Felix, who work together as a team of con-artists to survive on Pandora.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo:
    • Zer0 appears in the first episode, which fittingly is named "Zer0 Sum".
    • Athena shows up in Episode 2, "Atlas Mugged".
  • Prolonged Prologue: Episode 2's opening credits don't show up until about 25 minutes in; an entire quarter of the episode.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Both Rhys and Fiona have their own recounting of the story, each from their own perspective and occasionally conflicting with one another.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: As per Borderlands tradition, changing from episode-to-episode:
    • Zer0 Sum has "Busy Earnin'" by Jungle.
    • Atlas Mugged has "Kiss The Sky" by Shawn Lee.
  • Rousing Speech: As a Jack-wannabe, this is apparently Rhys's speciality at Hyperion. As such, if the player chooses to "Blow his Mind", Rhys delivers a particularly moving one to August that moves him so much that he simply breaks down crying and just hands over the Key. At least from his perspective. When Fiona tells her version of the same events he just drops to his knees and starts begging.
  • Schedule Slip: invoked Lampshaded at the beginning of Episode 2, when Marcus tells the player to stop complaining about how it's been so long since the last part of the story. Episode 2 came out around four months after Episode 1 was released.
  • Series Establishing Moment: After stealing Vasquez's car and driving off to Pandora, Rhys and Vaughn accidentally run over a passing skag. Unlike how this happens in other games, they draw attention to it and are momentarily freaked out, showing how much this is not a gunplay-based entry.
  • Shout-Out: It is a Borderlands game, after all. Has its own page.
  • Sibling Team: Fiona and Sasha are sisters who work together in cons.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Fiona's profession pre-game.
  • Space Western: Like all Borderlands games so far, the game continues the theme of a lawless planet where there are plenty of ramshackle towns, roaming bandit armies and hostile environments.
    • Most notably, Rhys and Fiona's new outfits look like something out of the Wild West, with Rhys having a fancy waistcoat and all.
  • Spiked Wheels: Many of the vehicles in the first episode chariot race have them.
  • Squee: Rhys may do this a few times towards Zer0.
    Rhys: You're uh... you're really cool. Ah ha ha... I just... I wanted you to know that.
    Zer0: <3
  • Tall Tale: Both Rhys and Fiona, in reiterating their stories to the mysterious stranger, take liberties before the other calls them out on it.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: Barely noticeable but Rhys has a large Vault Symbol on his chest.
  • Taxidermy Terror: The World of Curiosity Museum is full of creepy stuffed beasts, as well as some creepy stuffed people. And if you've seen what he's done to Oasis, it shouldn't come as too much a surprise who's running it.
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: Happens when Rhys comes up with a plan to break into the Atlas warehouse. By the time he's done, everyone else has found another way to get in.
    Rhys: My way would have worked...
  • Unreliable Narrator: Both of the protagonists are not above embellishing or outright making stuff up about the story if they can get away with it, either to stroke their own ego or to humiliate the other. However, anything too outrageous will be pointed out by The Stranger or the other narrator and the story continues.
  • Wacky Racing: Bossanova's bandits engage in Chariot Race-like derbies in a circular track around the top of an old Atlas borehole mine shaft, complete with custom built vehicles smashing into each other.
  • Walk and Talk: Rhys, Vaughn and Yvette do this at the beginning of the game.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Vaughn, of all people, turns out to be surprisingly buff, as seen in episode 2.
  • World of Snark: Just about everyone has a smartass comment or two to make. Even Loader Bot, if Rhys has him self-destruct, will make snarky passive-aggressive comments during future meetings.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Bossanova has a rather nerdy-sounding voice which doesn't suit a huge man leading a group of bandits, which is why he always speaks into a voice-changing microphone.